A mass letter-writing campaign orchestrated by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) could “scare off” councillors at the City of Adelaide from replacing Christian worship in council meetings with more inclusive practices.
Councillor Keiran Snape has told the Rationalist Society of Australia that he and his colleagues have been bombarded with hundreds of letters from ACL supporters in response to a proposal to remove Christian prayers from formal council meetings.
The ACL’s website says more than 500 letters have been sent to councillors since the lobby group launched its letter-writing campaign late last month.
Councillor Snape said the “constant bombardment” of emails from Christian activists – most of whom do not live in the Adelaide council area – could result in councillors opting not to go ahead with the reform.
“It’s the sheer numbers. It’s quite overwhelming,” he said.
“Some councillors are wavering now. I’m concerned that this could affect the numbers in the chamber. That would be quite disappointing.”
Councillor Snape said he supported replacing prayers at the opening of meetings with a moment for personal reflection.
Today, RSA president Meredith Doig urged Adelaide councillors not to be intimidated by the ACL’s campaign.
“For years the ACL has been pushing nationally for ‘religious freedom’ laws. Yet here again we have the ACL wanting governments to impose acts of religious worship – and specifically Christian worship – on all Australians in government institutions, which should be secular,” she said.
“The citizens of Adelaide come from a rich diversity of religious and non-religious backgrounds. We urge the mayor and councillors of Adelaide to respect, acknowledge and celebrate this diversity by replacing prayer rituals with secular practices that are more inclusive and welcoming of all people.”
In a letter to Adelaide’s mayor and councillors earlier this month, the RSA reminded them that the majority of their citizens – 51.6 per cent – were not religious and argued that the council should modernise proceedings to better reflect the diversity of the community.
Dr Doig noted that, in the past, the ACL had lobbied state and local governments to retain Christian worship because, at that time, the majority of the population was Christian. But that is no longer the case.
In 2020, Wendy Francis, then the ACL’s spokesperson for Queensland, launched campaigns urging the state parliament and the Brisbane City Council to retain Christian worship as part of their formal proceedings. In the petition on the Queensland Parliament website in September 2020, she said: “The majority of Australians chose to identify as Christian in the most recent census.” On the ACL’s website in August 2020, Ms Francis argued that: “The most recent census  showed that, once again, the majority of Australians choose to identify as Christian.”
Across South Australia as a whole, people identifying as not religious surged from 36 per cent to 45.8 per cent in the 2021 Census. About 40 per cent of South Australians now identify as Christian, while about eight per cent identify with non-Christian religions.
Image: Councillor Keiran Snape (Facebook)